This year Santa’s doing it right. No more massive queues, snaking their way around shopping centres, while parents and children stand for ages, waiting for a 60-second chat with the jolly old chap in a red suit. While we try our best to infuse Christmas 2020 with all the festive cheer and seasonal activities that customers relish, everyone has to make changes this year. If that means scheduling Santa to keep social contact to a minimum, so be it!
However, on Christmas Eve, that guy is on his own.
It’s the Most “Lucrative” Time of the Year
Retail centres, malls and departments stores start planning their activities for Christmas straight after the preceding New Year. The single reason being that many retail businesses have much higher revenues over the Chrismas season and New Year’s sales period than they do in six months. It’s too lucrative a period to leave it to chance.
Clearly, 2020 has been a nightmare for implementing and maintaining plans. Physical shopping centres have spent months guessing and second-guessing how to stop their revenues disappearing into the pockets of the online retail giants. Right now, the path to ensuring in-store and physical attendance is to schedule everything to optimise customer flow, maximise customer spending, and still bring the Holiday season to life.
Santa Has a Big Part to Play
One of the most magical aspects of the Christmas shopping experience – especially for people with young children and grandchildren – is the annual visit to Santa. The awe-inspiring excitement that’s partway to abject terror, as they meet the man who will decide whether they have been naughty or nice. It also has a tremendous effect on ensuring good behaviour while getting the shopping done.
But let’s be fair, the queues and inconvenience were never a selling point, for shopping centres or the parents.
This year, Santa needs to change his habits and follow new rules, but that doesn’t mean the magic has to disappear. There are some ways to work within the new rules, and still keep Santa present, relevant, and spreading joy.
Schedule Santa Visits Safely
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you eradicate close social contact and massive queues of people is to have a visitors timetable and make sure people stick to it.
No ticket, No Santa!
Ensure people know about it! Post your ads with a link to book a visit with Santa. There has got to be nothing worse than taking a small child shopping, with the promise of a visit to Santa Claus, only to get there and find out they can’t see him.
Gaspar home and garden centre shopping in Richboro, Pennsylvania has a site for scheduling Santa visits in-person to visit with the man and his elves.
Scheduling Santa with Social Distancing
Rather than having a vast grotto, and a tribe of elves taking up significant floor space in a shopping centre, what about having a scheduled video call with Santa? You can do it with a small area that is like a miniature Santa’s Grotto, where the children can video call with the Big Man.
The “Santa Zoomer” visit in Chesterfield is an example of this type of socially distanced Santa visit.
Alternatively, you could even set up an online-only Santa call that parents and Grandparents can access from home. So many more children have been exposed to video calling than ever before, for keeping up with elderly relatives and other family members during the lockdown, that a Zoom call with Santa is practically normal.
It even makes it more believable; Santa is still in the North Pole, so he has to Zoom everyone. There’ll be none of those tricky questions about how Santa can be in multiple places at once.
Here’s an example of a virtual grotto in London (UK)
No Gifts in COVID-safe Environments
While the giving of a gift in a shopping centre environment might not be an option, you do have the opportunity to provide add-ons with such items as a video of your child’s interaction with Santa or maybe a family portrait with the man himself. Also, there are other little add-ons, such as pre-packaged “elf on the shelf” sets that could bring that little extra sparkle to the season.
Scheduling Shoppers Beyond Santa
With capacity restriction, even the promise of an effective vaccine won’t make a dent in the social distancing regulations and partial lockdowns before the Christmas shopping season begins. To get more shoppers into your store, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to get into your stores, get them done in good time, and out again. How you do this is up to you.
What do you offer that will make the shopping experience more streamlined and optimise customer flow through stores?
These are a few examples of services offered in shopping centres around the world:
- Personal Shopping
- Mobility Vehicles & Kiddy carts
- Customer Service
All of these help to make a shopping trip more practical and create a better experience for your customers. Moreover, all of them benefit from the use of careful scheduling.
Event Scheduling, Concessions and more
There are more things you might need to schedule than your customers at this time of year. Increased seasonal spending doesn’t just apply to gifts; it also includes supplies, tools and decorations. And it’s this time of year that usually sees a rise in concessional booths and short-term pop-up boutiques. With reduced capacity and less space available for concessional stands, you might have to be very strict with the people you allow to set up shop – even if it’s a charitable cause.
Let your usual businesses know which concessionary spaces are available and when.
Get Yourself Ready For The Rush
Some places in the world are still weathering the harsh circumstances of another lockdown. If that applies to you, then you know your shoppers will all start doing their Christmas shopping in a short space of time.
If you think as we do, that scheduling your customers is the best way to maximise your foot traffic and enhance the shopping experience, it’s probably best to implement it now. Setting up now, while you have the calm before the storm, means you have the time to implement, advertise, and get your customers ready to book.